Powerhouse second rower Ethan Ballard bagged a double in a robust all-round performance in Bundaberg at the weekend.
Ballard starred as a depleted Wallaroos shored up second position on the Bundaberg under 18 ladder with a 24-16 victory over cellar dwellers Waves Tigers in their Round 7 clash at Eskdale Park on Saturday.
Roos coach Shaun Hobson said they were missing a host of players including captain and quality front rower Keian Grogan and were “made to work the whole game by a gallant and extremely determined Waves side led by lock Joel Cox”.
The Maryborough Marauders led 12-10 at the break after two tries apiece in the first half.
“Ballard scored the first of his second half double soon after the restart with Tom Colvin converting to extend the lead to 18-10, before Cox scored and converted to get to within two points,” Hobson said.
“Waves then had set after set in possession, pretty much having the ball the whole last 10 minutes, but whilst our errors and ill-discipline were evident, handing the ball back cheaply, it was our attitude and effort in defence that was most pleasing, not allowing Waves out of their own 40 (metres) that whole time.
“With only a minute left on the clock, we forced an error, found our composure and were able to execute a great set which resulted in Ballard's second match-sealing try, with Tom Colvin again converting for a perfect record.”
Hobson said in Grogan’s absence, it was up to their other middle forwards to step up.
“And (front rower) Seth Laherty was again strong, while Bryce Hobson played his best game of the season to date, along with stand-in captain and hooker Bailey Eckert – he played strongly in both attack and defence,” Hobson said.
“However, it was second rower Ethan Ballard who was the best on ground with a two-try, 60-minute man of the match performance – he was unstoppable throughout in attack and also led the way defensively.
“Joel Cox was also very close to best on ground, scoring two tries, kicking two goals and keeping his team in the game right until the very end.”
Wests Panthers also claimed the points, courtesy of a Hervey Bay Seagulls forfeit.
With three rounds to go, Wests are now on 12 points, with Roos second on 10, Hervey Bay holding down third on four, and Waves with just two points to their credit.
With a massive net points differential to Wallaroos of 159 to four, Wests look to have top spot secure regardless of the outcome of their clash with Roos at Salter Oval this Sunday, but another Panthers win would seal the deal.
On Saturday, the Seagulls Bay will be striving to put a mortgage on third place and a semi-final berth when they host the Tigers at Stafford Park.
In under 16, Bundaberg Grizzlies retained top spot despite suffering their first loss, being edged out by Hervey Bay 18-16, while the Seagulls also soared in under 13, thrashing the Tigers 78-8 with prolific try-scoring centre Braidan Houliston bagging another four.
In under 14, Brothers struck a major blow in the race for the minor premiership, outgunning Waves 14-6 in their top of the table pulsating end-to-end duel with fullback Blake Powter a match winner with a double.
WALLAROOS 24 (Ethan Ballard 2, Seth Laherty, Tom Colvin tries; Tom Colvin 4 goals) d WAVES TIGERS 16 (Joel Cox 2, Folau Havili tries; Joel Cox 2 goals).
WESTS PANTHERS d HERVEY BAY SEAGULLS on forfeit
WALLAROOS 30 (Justin Sinnett 2, Liam Doolan, Samual Manski, Bailey Mills tries; Noah Dawson 5 goals) d BROTHERS 22 (Bradley Shorter, Lane Crossley-Price tries).
HERVEY BAY SEAGULLS 18 (Kyan Moustakas, Zack Wellington, Kyle Ross, Toby Jackson tries; Michael Cross goal) d BUNDABERG GRIZZLIES 16 (Trey Kerr, Bryden Blair, Harrison Brough tries; Zander Kerr 2 goals).
HERVEY BAY SEAGULLS 22 (Robert Borsboom 2, Kayleb Angeles, Raiden Schocker Ryan tries; Dane Blanke 2, Eden Wheeler goals) d WESTS PANTHERS 18 (Shoeb Abdul 2, Nathan Coney tries; Ryan Bugeja 3 goals)
BROTHERS 52 (Ethan Brennan 3, Ezekiel Monckton 2, Mitchell Sly, Ben Toft, Izak Cochrane, Zander Evans, Matthew Smith tries; Ezekiel Monckton 6 goals) d EASTS MAGPIES 4 (Bailee Turner try).
WESTS PANTHERS 18 (Cooper Black 2, Jack Conway, Dominic Bunyoung tries; Daniel Jones goal) d HERVEY BAY SEAGULLS 8 (Boedie Dwight, Noah Douglas-Denduck tries).
BROTHERS 14 (Blake Powter 2, Joseph Doyle tries; Dawson Hess goal) d WAVES TIGERS 6 (Jarrod Warren try, Sebastyn Brennan goal).
HERVEY BAY SEAGULLS 78 (Braidan Houliston 4, Tanner Worthington 2, Tatem Henke 2 tries; Michael Parsgaard 9 goals) d WAVES TIGERS 8 (Jack Howarth 2 tries).
EASTS MAGPIES 30 (Thomas-James Webb, Riley Maule, Oscar Dotter, Charlie Keech-Reeves, Zac Blanch, James Goodman-Jones tries; Joshua Garland 2, Ryan Charteris goals) d WESTS PANTHERS 14 (Johnathon Coyne 2, Dylan Vickery tries; Darnell Saunders goal)
BROTHERS 50 (Isaac Barrett 3, Oliver Smith 2, Jomar Gustilo 2, Ryan Bohl, Toby Collins tries; Jomar Gustilo 4, Isaac Barrett, Ryan Bohl, Toby Collins goals) d WALLAROOS 6 (Lachlan Nitschinsk try & goal).
Main image: Dual try-scorer Ethan Ballard makes a signature run for Wallaroos in the under 18 competition.